The right to fully participate in civic life is a strong motivator.
If not for that, it’s fair to say that some of the 427 Western Washingtonians suing to get their citizenship applications moving might have given up long ago.
The group, which includes 25 Pierce County residents, had gone to court to challenge delays that stretched as long as five years. A preliminary settlement announced this week could allow many of those legal permanent residents to become citizens by the November election.
That would be a big win, and not just for those would-be citizens or the political interests hoping to further their causes by getting recent immigrants to the polls. Anyone concerned with encouraging legal immigration should be cheering this news.
The country’s unwieldy and backlogged immigration system does nothing to encourage compliance. Frustrating those who try to play by the rules makes a mockery of their efforts and invites contempt for the law.
The lawsuit filed in a Seattle federal court was the first of numerous similar suits around the country to be given class-action status. A settlement here could help bring overdue resolution to countless applications for citizenship.
Lawyers defending the federal government had tried to argue that the plaintiffs would not be harmed by having to sit out the election. Federal judge Marsha Pechman didn’t mince words in her response: “This suggestion that plaintiffs should be resigned to participate vicariously in civic society is shocking, offensive and wrong.”
“The government’s argument also flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s repeated conclusion that the right to vote is the most basic and fundamental of our constitutionally protected rights,” she said.
That’s a timely statement about a right that too many take for granted. Secretary of State Sam Reed is predicting that 46 percent of the state’s registered voters will cast ballots in next Tuesday’s election. If he’s right, it would be the best primary voter participation in years.
You can bet that if the 427 Western Washingtonians suing over delays with their citizenship applications were given the same opportunity, their turnout numbers would be something to really boast about.